New teachers in Baltimore County public schools will receive a pay increase and district employees will see their pay increase Under the proposed annual budget Thursday By County Executive Johnny Olshewski.
The $4.9 billion spending plan Olszewski presented to the county council Thursday also includes free tuition for most county residents at Baltimore County Community College.
In front of a near-full crowd of department heads, other county officials, lawmakers and union leaders, Olszewski said he is investing a historic amount in the school system, more than $70 million above what the state requires.
“This budget reaffirms my commitment to being the Chief Executive Officer of Education, someone who will always make the necessary investments but who will also demand accountability and performance to ensure that our students, parents, and communities get a return on that investment,” he said.
The county executive said he is saving money to pay new teachers $59,000 annually, an increase of $4,500 each.
Baltimore County Public School Superintendent Darrell Williams said this is necessary to attract new teachers.
“That was one of the agreements we really talked about looking at the starting salary for our teachers,” said Williams.
Contract negotiations continue between the school system and the Baltimore County Teachers Union, over salaries. Union president Cindy Sexton said some of the money the school system gets from the county needs to go to experienced teachers, too.
“A starting salary of $59,000 is a great move for employment,” Sexton said. “But we do have teachers that we need to keep.”
There is also money to hire more people to run pre-kindergarten classes and thirty additional English language teachers as second language teachers, Olszewski said.
The budget also includes a 4% salary increase for county employees.
“These investments represent the highest year-over-year wage increase in at least three decades,” Olszewski said.
Both the district and the school system are struggling to hire enough people. The county currently has about 200 vacancies, according to Erika Palemisano, Olszewski’s press secretary.
In the spending plan, there is money so most county residents can go to Baltimore County Community College for free. Four libraries in Essex, Lansdowne, Randallstown and Woodlawn can be replaced or refurbished.
There is $10 million in additional funds to help redevelop the dilapidated Security Square Mall in Woodlawn. The county and state have already committed $20 million.
$7 million has been set aside so police officers who live in the county can take their cruisers home.
Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents District 5, likes it.
“Our most fundamental responsibility is public safety,” Marks said. “This will have a direct impact on public safety in our neighborhoods.”
There is $150,000 that the county inspector general can use to hire an outside consultant. Inspector General Kelly Madigan had to rely on the district attorney for legal advice. That could lead to conflict, she said, because the district attorney serves at Olszewski’s behest, and Madgian’s investigations could include members of his administration.
There is money being sprayed across the county for parks and sports fields, including the county’s first cricket ground at Cloverland Park in Phoenix and court renovations including, as Olszewski puts it, “the expansion of our beloved pickleball pitches”.
Republican Congressman Wade Kach, who represents the 3rd District, praised Olshewski’s budget, a Democrat.
“This county executive has made a concerted effort to modernize our parks and recreational facilities, so I’m very happy about that,” said Cash.
Democratic Councilwoman Izzy Patoka, who represents District 2, also praised the budget, particularly the $3 million in county funds for the Pikesville Armory project in his district. The Foundation is redeveloping the Armory, built in 1903, to make it a center for cultural arts and entertainment.
“I appreciate the county executive for being bold with this budget and addressing needs that have been sorely needed over so many years,” said Patuka.
Olszewski’s budget will now be considered by the county council, including holding a public hearing on April 25.
The council will vote on the spending plan in late May, but its role in practice is limited. He can only reduce the budget, he cannot add to it or move money around. The last two times Olszewski presented them with a proposed budget they changed nothing.
The $4.9 billion spending plan represents an increase of nearly 2% over the current year’s budget. It will take effect on July 1.